During the last election cycle, Democrat Karen Castor Dentel rode an Obama turnout effort and managed to beat a Republican incumbent to steal a seat from the GOP in Central Florida. Looks like it’s payback time. The question is whether Republican Bob Cortes can pull it off to take Florida House District 30 back.
It’s always an uphill battle when a challenger is running against an incumbent, especially one with a family name well-known to Florida politics. Castor Dentel’s mother is the former Florida education secretary, and her sister is a congresswoman from Tampa Bay. Still, Cortes is not only keeping up with Castor Dentel, he’s beating her in the polls. How could this be?
First, Cortes, like a sizable chunk of the electorate in the I-4 corridor, has Puerto Rican roots. He was born in Brooklyn, moved to Puerto Rico when he was young and lived there with his family until he married. In 1989, he moved to Central Florida and began a fruitful business career pursuing the American dream with his wife at his side. Cortes’ inspiring story makes him easily relatable to Central Florida’s Latino community.
Second, Cortes has the right business background for Central Florida’s No. 1 issue: jobs and the economy. Castor Dentel, meanwhile, has an education background and has done little to use her clout in the Legislature to improve job growth. Last year, she even voted against HB 7007, a measure that would have cut taxes on manufacturers’ purchase of new equipment. The bill seemed like a no-brainer way to stimulate the economy, but she either failed to realize its significance or became so partisan in her commitment to the Democratic Party line that her vision was blurred. Cortes’ experience lends him credibility when he talks about growing jobs, going a long way toward helping him win this seat.
Third, Cortes is right on education issues. Castor Dentel is a stalwart defender of unions and the education establishment. Cortes wants to get parents more involved and increase incentives for the best teachers to remain in the classrooms. As a teacher, Castor Dentel should support such initiatives as well, but again, she seems to be unable to do anything other than support the most partisan line.
So there you have it. Bob Cortes has the muscle to make sound decisions on education issues, the experience to promote job and economic growth, and the power to reach the critical Hispanic vote. That all adds up to a winning equation. Yes, he is a Republican, but remember, the Hispanic community in Central Florida cares less about party labels and more about personality and connectivity.
With the election just a weekend away, Cortes is poised to win one back for conservatives, and we wish him well.
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